The Israeli military’s chief legal adviser said on Thursday that he is not concerned about a possible investigation by the International Criminal Court into Israel’s conduct during last year’s Gaza war.
Israel’s own internal probes are sufficient, said advocate general Maj. Gen. Danny Efroni.
The Palestinians recently joined the Netherlands-based court and have threatened to press war crimes charges against Israel there. But, according to the court’s founding statute, any robust internal investigation could prevent an outside one by the court.
“I am not concerned because I think I am doing my job,” Efroni told journalists on the sidelines of a conference about the laws of armed conflict. He said the quality and professionalism of the investigations being carried out were “sufficient enough” to stave off a probe by the international court.
Efroni has opened 15 criminal investigations into separate incidents from the 50-day war that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, many of them civilians, and 72 Israelis, mostly soldiers. Two probes have been closed because Palestinians who had lodged complaints did not want to testify. The military declined to say which cases were closed.
Israel launched the operation in Gaza last summer in what it said was a mission to halt relentless rocket fire by Hamas resisters.
Israel has defended the operation as an act of self-defense and blamed Hamas for the heavy civilian death toll, saying the group used residential areas for cover. But critics have pointed to the heavy Palestinian civilian death toll and questioned whether Israel’s response was proportionate. The international court could also investigate Hamas’ conduct during the war.
Israel has also come under fire from critics who say it fails to thoroughly investigate its military operations or prosecute soldiers for abuses. Israel says it does investigate its actions, although those inquiries rarely lead to criminal punishment.
Following a similar operation in Gaza in early 2009, the army convicted four soldiers on various charges, including looting, improper use of a weapon and life-endangering conduct. The most serious sentence was a three-and-a-half month prison term.
Efroni called the Israeli investigations “full and thorough.” SAPA